Legend has it that baseball is America’s favorite sport. And in the wiring of my brain, that certainly is true. I was born in Brooklyn, NY when Jackie Robinson was a rookie for one of America’s classic sports love stories, the Brooklyn Dodgers. And my eight-year-old heart was easy pickings for the Boys of Summer when they first became World Champions, finally beating the pin-striped Yankees starring Mantle, Berra and Whitey Ford.
Brooklyn lived and died with the daily joys and frustrations of each pennant race of the years in between. Die-hard young fans, along with their often first or second-generation immigrant parents, were caught in an unending, perennial tide of community excitement.
When the Dodgers moved out west it broke the heart of the borough. But a new expansion team returned in the form of Casey Stengel’s inept Amazing Mets, and in 1969 National League fans in Brooklyn and throughout New York got to relive the joys of a long-suffering team becoming last-to-first World Champions.
Starting to sound familiar? But here is where I am going with this:
Being the winner is not really the most enjoyable thing in sports. Winning does not equal happiness. Being World Champion is not what makes hearts race. A racing heart makes a World Champion. Results are not as important as process, and enjoying the process IS happiness.
The 2012 Washington Nationals are a rags-to-riches story. And if the season ends with a World Series appearance or – hold your breath – a World Series Championship, it will be wonderful. I don’t mean to say it won’t. But there is still plenty of baseball left to play before the playoffs. And the baseball we already have had this season, and have every day, has been captivating. Our team of substantially home-grown players has learned and grown right before our eyes.
This season is amazing. The pennant race, which began with anticipation and hope in April and has been building steadily every day since, has been and continues to be a joy to experience. The team has never-quit heart and one-for-all, all-for-one character; the manager is intelligent, crafty and caring; and they all are lovable.
This is so fun. Breathe.
Zev Feder is a long-time Southwest resident with a life-long passion for baseball as a player, coach and, above all, fan.